Friday, January 22, 2016

Just For Fun: The 30 Day Project

Do any of my readers share my love of fashion/personal style blogs?  I take a lot of inspiration from them.  I love seeing what stylish women wear and how they incorporate seemingly ordinary pieces of clothing into cute outfits, and how they make outrageous pieces of clothing respectable.  My favorite bloggers include Jessica of What I Wore (although she seems to be moving away from fashion blogging), Jean of Extra Petite, and Kendi of Kendi Everyday.  They are my go-to blogs to help me understand how I can best edit my wardrobe and coordinate  many separate pieces into a whole.  I also enjoy women with a slightly edgier sense of style such as Wendy of Wendy's Lookbook and Blair at Atlantic Pacific. I also recently discovered Hallie of Hallie Daily

Fashion blogs do present some dangers though.  They tend to make me covet.  Kendi has convinced me I must have a pink Rebecca Minkhoff bag (I received the plum one for Christmas).  I may have decided I wasn't wearing my leopard print boots enough to keep them, but Jean has made me realize I need a pair of leopard pumps.  Jean also has me wondering if I should reconsider my dislike of bulky scarves.   They source their outfits (or at least where you can find similar items) so I can have ideas of where to shop.  Such knowledge may not be wise.  I do like to think it helps me make more intelligent choices.

I would love to have a fashion blog of my own.  I love playing with my wardrobe and seeing what I can come up with.  It would be fun (if a bit narcissistic) to share outfit ideas with the world.  Seeing other women's fashion blogs always tempts me.  There are a few obstacles in my way though.

First, take a look at most style bloggers.  The style blog world has been accused of being elitist because it features so many white, thin, rich women.  While not all of my favorite bloggers are white, they are all thin.  Jessica is quite tall.  I couldn't wear some of the outfits she pulls off.  Jean is almost as short as I am, but she's tiny.  She doesn't have to dress around a pair of giant boobs. Kendi is a little thicker than some of the others I follow, but her figure is still better proportioned than mine.  I just don't look as good in the clothes I wear.

The second reason I could never successfully fashion blog is that I don't have the budget or the time and know-how to work around a budget.  These women shop a variety of high-end brands (although they do squish in a bit of Old Navy or H&M now and then). They also know how to go for sponsorships so they can show off their clothes and be walking advertisements for the brands they wear.  Do you like these shoes?  Well, the link below will take you Saks where you can buy them yourself.  Some women have enough sponsorships to make blogging their full time job.  I would love to blog for a living, but it's not a practical choice for me right now.  I wouldn't know how to get the kind of sponsorships that would support my shopping habits (or allow me to be a full time blogger) and I don't have the time to research and seek them right now.

Another advantage the typical fashion blogger is a handy photographer and the time and locations for photographs.  Fashion bloggers have friends and husbands willing to go outside with them and snap photo after photo in the perfect setting.  It's a pity I have a husband with a passion for photography and a high-end DSLR camera, but no time to fool around taking photos of me in cute outfits.  Since we live in an apartment, we can't easily go outside and take advantage of natural light.  On weekends I spend most of my day at the barn wearing barn clothes, so I don't have much time or inclination to dress up and show off work or dressy outfits. 

It also seems every fashion blogger I admire is far more willing than I am to walk around in 4" heels.

So I will never be a fashion blogger.  I will stick to food and "typical nonsense" and never be paid for any of it.  Still, it's fun to think about your outfits, photograph them, and share your ideas.  How could I find a way to do that?

That's how I came up with the 30 Day Project.  I challenged myself to wear everything in my closet, over a course of 30 work days.  The idea was that I would never wear exactly the same outfit twice (like the main rule of dressing in middle school).  For example, even if I wore the same skirt or pants with the same sweater, I would change the shirt and shoes. Once I had the outfits put together, I would take a daily photograph and put it on a Pin Board.  I don't have the time to take really nice fashion-blog-worthy photos, but I could at least take a quick snapshot after getting dressed in the morning so I would have the outfit recorded.  From there I could decide if I liked the combinations, or if I felt they flattered me. 

Initially I included Casual Friday into the mix, but decided it wasn't really important as it was mostly jeans, leggings, sweaters, and boots.  These are all work outfits, as my weekend outfits are greasy sweatshirts and t-shirts, riding breeches, muddy boots, coats, and hats.  My apres` barn clothes are generally the same as Casual Friday clothes.

The photos are mostly terrible.  In fact, I think they are some of the ugliest pictures of me ever taken.  They are taken indoors in bad lighting.  My hair is usually still wet and my makeup is half done (I put a base on at home and put everything else on at the office).  Occasionally they were shot with my phone.  We used my cheap camera instead of Kevin's DSLR.  There were times when we were running late and I had no time to take a photo before leaving for work, so after work I would just lay the outfit out on the floor and take a picture without me in it.  That would not really help me understand how good an outfit looked on me.  Regardless I did what I set out to do.  I created 30 different looks and recorded each one.

I learned a few things during this experiment.

1.  MY BOOBS!  OMG, MY BOOBS!  I know I'm well-endowed, but I really needed to see photos of me to see how much my boobs dominate my torso these days.  I spend ridiculous amounts of money on minimizer bras, but they don't seem to help much.  It's hard to flatter something that size.  My biggest fashion challenge going forward is to figure out what to do with my boobs.

2.  Until I lose 20 pounds, I should not tuck my shirt in.

3.  I need to get rid of that gray lace shell.  It does even fewer favors for my boobs than the other tops do.

4.  My black cardigan and mushroom ankle boots are clearly the most indispensable items in my wardrobe.  They are worn more than anything else.

5.  The Clark's mary janes are comfortable, but not the best options for dress shoes.  They look clunky with some of the outfits.

6.  I'm glad I decided to try wearing more green this year.

7.  Despite my attempts to add more colors to my wardrobe, it seems burgundy continues to be my signature color (and I'm sure if I do a spring/summer version of this, raspberry and turquoise will show up all too often).

7.  My weight has reached a critical point.  I need to lose it because it's becoming increasingly difficult to find things that fit and flatter.

8.  It took me a year to finally get my hands on those Victorian-inspired black ankle boots, but it was worth teh wait.  I love them. 

9.  I could be more creative.  Patterns are repeating themselves in these photos.  What can I do to mix things up and look even more interesting?

If you like anything you see, here is a shopping guide.  Not everything here was purchased this season, so you may not find anything exactly like it.  It will help you understand where I tend to source my clothes if you are looking to achieve any similar looks.

Burgundy dress, black cardigan, burgundy jacket, floral skirt, black blouse - Lands End

Floral shoes, red skirt, black and white polka dot skirt, black and white hounsdtooth skirt, navy polka-dot blazer - ModCloth

Black pants, black and white graphic print pants - Banana Republic

Navy pants, burgundy pants - Ann Taylor

Black and gray printed dress - Loft

Red flats, tall black boots, mushroom boots, cobalt cardigan, floral t-shirt, pink skirt, blue graphic blouse, burgundy blouse, black and white graphic blouse, black blazer, gray moto cardigan (I think) - Nordstrom

Floral Blazer - ASOS

Black and white check cardigan, black and white striped blouse - Bluefly

Cranberry boots, embossed loafers, black and white check pumps - Aerosoles

Black and white check tunic, black ankle boots - Acacia Lifestyle

Oatmeal sweater, burgundry sweater, green sweater, navy cardigan, red t-shirt, green button front shirt - Kohls

Navy pumps - DSW 

Cobalt lace shirt - Stitch Fix

Everything else I can't remember.

I don't know if I can do another 30 days, but I might even make another 3 outfits I didn't wear yet.  Should I try this for the spring and summer season?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Posts I'd Like To See Fewer of in 2016

Your misanthropy:  Every day I find out just how intelligent and sweet and patient and wonderful my Facebook friends are.  In fact, they are such wonderful people that everyone around them is stupid, rude, and flat-out toxic.  The unfortunate people who can't meet the high standards of my obviously superior friends deserve to be slapped, beaten up, punched in the throat, cut (not sure where they are said to be cut), or even killed.  Isn't it amazing that you are so great, and yet you manage to put up with all of these horrible people every day?

Yeah right.

Making Excuses for Bad Behavior -  If you constantly brag that you are a "bitch" or an "asshole" your friends may start to believe you.When you post stuff about how you know you're not a nice person, what I hear is, "I am making excuses for my lack of ability to show respect or human decency by 'warning' you that this is just the kind of person I am."  In fact, posts like this often shift the blame to others by making statements like, "I'm only a bitch because you're stupid."  You can't control others' behavior, but you can change how you react to it.  Try showing patience, tolerance, kindness, and respect, or at the very least, figure out how to ignore them.  You don't need to tell off everyone who disagrees with you.

Your Love of Curse Words - I'm sorry, but I will never accept that your tendency to drop f-bombs makes you special.  I'm sick of hearing you brag about your potty mouth.  Yes, I know there was some study that supposedly "proves" that it's a sign of your intelligence, but there are studies out there that "prove" just about anything.  Like most studies that tell people what they want to hear, it was highly publicized and the conclusions were way too simplified by social media.  You didn't invent the word fuck.  You didn't invent the word shit.  You didn't invent the word asshole.  Those words are neither inventive nor particularly nuanced.  Everyone uses them every day.  Peppering your language with curse words doesn't make you sound edgy and dangerous.  Honestly the way some people scatter the word "fucking" in front of every phrase I'm not reminded of some cool, freaky, hipsters.  It sounds more like teenage girls who needs to use "like" and "you know" before every phrase.  Curse words for many folks are just a habit - a vocal crutch.
 
The English language is so nuanced and filled with with all kinds descriptive words that can so much more impact that curse words.  Good writers will tell you never to use "very" as a descriptor but instead use strong words that stand alone by themselves.  I think in the same vein, if you want your words to have power, avoid using the word, "fucking".  Instead of "fucking good" say delicious, delightful, powerful, fabulous, stupendous, momentous.  Instead of saying, "fucking bad" say devastating, tragic, distasteful.  I'm more impressed with a brilliant vocabulary than I am with hearing the word fuck for the 800th time today.

If you're going to finish this and say, "If you don't like my cursing, fuck you!" then you missed the point.  I'm not offended.  I don't take it personally (and I am sure some people wish I did).  I just don't think it's anything to brag about, and your bragging is tiresome.

Your Obsession with Coffee:  So you're addicted to a neurostimulant.  Well aren't you just the most unique human on earth!  There is a list floating around the internet about American quirks foreigners find perplexing.   Number 35 is "obsession with coffee".  In Europe coffee is a common breakfast beverage.  One might linger over a coffee socially.  That's where it starts and ends.  Foreigners don't treat it like it's some kind of life-giving substance.

Is the United States really the planet of Arrakis?  Is coffee really melange and once you start using it, you need to keep using it to survive?  One would think after seeing 6 coffee-related memes a day.

If you need a stimulant drug to get through you day, I think it's time to re-examine your lifestyle.  I would suggest finding ways to get more sleep, adopting better nutrition habits, and exercising daily.  It's amazing how much energy your body has naturally when you treat it right.

Your Obsession with Alcohol:  This doesn't annoy me as much as it frightens me.  Alcoholism is a major cause in the rise of the death rate among middle-aged men.  Alcoholism is also on the rise with women in my age group.  I know some of this stuff is posted in jest.  Even I admit to making the occasional, "I need a drink," post.  I just wonder if the joke ever stops.  How much do you "need" that wine?  Do you really think your stress and worries can be cured with a cocktail?

I know you could only be joking, but I worry that you're not joking.  Please take care of yourself  and don't see alcohol as a golden panacea for your problems or the only route to an enjoyable time.  I care too much about you.

Saying you don't care about how people react to your posts:  You don't care if you offended anyone?  You don't care if you hurt anyone's feelings?  "Suck it up Buttercup?"  Just remember, others may stop caring about your feelings too.  How much are you able to suck it up?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Moving My Body Forward - Phase 3

As long as it takes.

If anyone were to ask me how long I plan to stick to specific nutrition habits, work out along certain programs, and stay accountable to this blog, this is the answer I would give.

Have you ever noticed how many diet and fitness programs are time sensitive?  You have a 6 Week Body Makeover, a 21 Day Fix, Power 90.   I had considered doing a program with a local personal trainer who had a 12 week fitness and nutrition program.  Even Lean Eating expects you to have your "after" happen within a year, complete with your progress photo (that they can use for their promotional purposes).  People set limits as to when they want to lose weight such as a wedding or a vacation.  The only program that doesn't set a time limit is Weight Watchers and that's because they are a pay-as-you-go system so they want you to stay in the program and keep paying for meetings.

The problem with putting a time limit on changing your body is that it can set you up for failure.  It is certainly possible to have dramatic results in a short period of time, but real life shows it's rarely sustainable.  Perfect exercise and nutrition habits are hard to achieve and if you try to force a radical change, you may find yourself feeling frustrated and deprived.  I have learned over the years that if I try for perfect eating, I'll never get it right.  I love food too much and I don't do well trying to cut out treats all the time.  I like the approach Amber Rogers uses.   It is very similar to Lean Eating, but unlike Lean Eating, she doesn't put any time limit on it.  Do not be perfect.  Be consistent.  Make small changes, one at a time.  Allow your mind and your body to adjust.  Most of all, be patient.  If you are consistent with your nutrition habits (eat only until satisfied, eat enough protein, eat your vegetables, get some kind of physical activity daily), you will make a change.  It just won't be the kind of radical change you would see if you tried to be perfect.

I know I won't have the body I want by the time I go on my trip to Hawaii in February.  I won't even have it before I go to Chincoteague in July.  I'm thinking it will be a good two years before I am able to bring myself to the point where I look and feel my best.  That's okay.  I am not going to give up my accountability to this blog as soon as I'm finished with all 7 phases of The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I will find a new weight training program.  I'm thinking either one by Molly Gallbraith or Nia Shanks.  I'm sure at some point I will stop boring my readers with these fitness posts, but I will keep them up for as long as I feel they are helping me.

So I am just about finished with my eight weeks of PiYo.  I feel the program did help ease me back into upper body strength training and has also helped me with endurance, flexibility, and balance - all of which I lost somewhat in the past year.  I'm not sure it was particularly effective in terms of body recomp.  The workout leaves me sweating like a pig and out of breath, but I don't always feel as if my muscles were truly affected by the exercises.   They felt easy when I started.   As the weeks progressed, they felt more difficult because once I learned the moves really well, I could concentrate on the more.  I have reached the end of the 8 weeks and now my body has completely adapted and only the hardest one (Sweat) really feels difficult to me. 

I plan to move on to the New Rules of Lifting for Women now.  I am hoping my body can handle it.  My elbow and hip still hurt, but not as much as they used to.  My hand doctor dismissed me after my last appointment because my progress was so good.  I'll have to go slowly and work with the lightest weights right now, but I really do want to try. 

I have not been consistent with my habit this month.  The holidays ruined me.  I always had too much food around the house and I was snacking all the time.  I stopped eating mindfully.  I lost the habits altogether the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  I stopped even bothering to track it all.

I will not be too hard on myself though because some meals I really did pay attention and stop eating.  I know I'm capable of continuing to work on this.

 I plan to redo the habit for Phase 3.  I may split Phase 3 into two habits.  The weight training phase is six weeks, long, so I may try just three more weeks of eating until satiety and move on to another habit for the next three weeks, or I may just do it for the full six weeks if I feel I am still having issues being consistent with it.   That's another advantage of not setting any time goals.  No one is telling me to move on to a new habit after two weeks.  I can work on a nutrition habit for as long as I need to.

So what's my new routine:

Nutrition Habit: Eat only until satisfied (first 3 weeks or all 6 weeks), Eat lean protein with every meal (last 3 weeks)
Sunday: NROLFW weight training working AM, Riding PM
Monday: Dance class
Tuesday: NROLFW weight training workout
Wednesday: Zumba (either class at the gym or at home with the Kinect program)
Thursday: NROLFW weight training workout
Friday: Interval cardio on the bike, elliptical, or rowing machine
Saturday: Riding

I will occasionally replace Zumba with yoga, or if dance class is cancelled one night, I will do yoga then.

What are this month's stats.  I gained two pounds this month, but that's to be expected.  I haven't gained anything beyond what I started with.  I also ate a lot of salty food this week, which may be skewing the results a bit.  I did lose a bit in my waist, hips, and thighs though.  The workout is doing something.

Weight: 150 pounds
Waist: 31"
Hips: 41.5
Arm: 13.75
Bust: 37.5 (I didn't really lose anything here.  I was just wearing a super-tight bra when I measured myself today)